Celebrating and promoting the best in UK prisons, probation and youth justice
COMMENDEE 2013-14: Foreign National Co-ordinator: for contributions to the management, care and rehabilitation of female foreign national prisoners.
[Patience Sakitsoo Kokroko gives her account of the work for which she won her Commendation]
My commendation was for Care, Management and Rehabilitation of foreign national prisoners in HMP Bronzefield. By supporting them and referring them to relevant organisations, they were released or deported with support, and victims of trafficking were released into safe accommodations. Their risk of re-offending was addressed which contributed to reduction in re-offending rates.
At HMP Bronzefield, there is a wide spectrum of women from convicted and sentenced young offenders to lifers; remand women and Restricted status (high security) women. Due to the location of the prison and its catchment area, Bronzefield receives women from a number of the ports of entry into the country; Heathrow, Gatwick and Dover. This means that the prison population includes a high proportion of foreign national women. On average, around 30% of the women in Bronzefield are foreign nationals, with over 50 nationalities and a range of cultural identities to accommodate which requires an absolute focus on diversity and inclusion within the prison.
As Foreign National Coordinator, I undertook considerable work in supporting the foreign nationals in Bronzefield. Foreign nationals have benefited from my support in maintaining family ties, issues of translation were dealt with as required and immigration casework was maintained. They were placed in contact with their embassies, queries about immigration solicitors were dealt with, women who have been trafficked into the country were identified and were supported and referred to relevant agencies and authorities and some placed in safe housing. I liaised closely with Social Services, POPPY PROJECT, Salvation Army, NSPCC to help these women who have been trafficked into the U.K.
Some of the women were trafficked into working in the sex industry, others were used as domestic slaves, others were forced into drugs, robbery, burglary and other crimes. Many of these women were brought in on a false document which is how they ended up coming to prison. I supported these women and asked experienced solicitors in trafficking to work on their cases with the view to ultimately getting them out into safe and supported accommodation. Without this intervention they could serve long sentences in prison and be deported back to their country of birth which puts them in danger of beginning the whole process again. Alternatively, if they are released back into the community without any support, the women are at risk of falling under the influence of their traffickers, engaging once again in the sex industry or participating in further criminal activity.
I have helped lots of ladies to get their stories heard, to gain justice and fair treatment from competent authorities outside the prison, to gain freedom from slavery and to have resettlement in the community.
Through my work, many foreign national prisoners have had the opportunity not just to be returned to their home country but also address their risk of further offending by the fast interventions put in place. I communicate with agencies and put measures in place to achieve work for them. Many foreign national prisoners who came into prison “broken”, with low self esteem, no confidence, feeling rejected, but through the support I gave them, they left the prison confident, “awake” and with a strong determination to start life afresh thereby supporting public protection.
[The following article appeared in issue 6 of the Butler Trust’s magazine, Inspire]
Patience Kokroko has received a Commendation for her commitment to supporting foreign national women at HMP and YOI Bronzefield. As Foreign National Coordinator, she has been the ‘epitome of dedication, hard work, self sacrifice and professionalism’, according to her Manager.
With Bronzefield’s catchment area including several ports of entry into the country, its prison population includes around 30 per cent foreign nationals, with many cultural identities. Many women have been trafficked into the country, frequently to work in the sex industry, and Patience supports them in many ways, contacting the Poppy Project, Immigration, and the Salvation Army, and getting them into supported accommodation – interventions that can save them from long prison sentences and being deported back to their country of birth.
Patience is known as kind, compassionate and caring, and described as an ‘unsung heroine’ in the many letters and cards from staff, prisoners and external agencies. Her role in preparing the women for the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) interview has made a vital difference to their outcomes at a difficult and emotional time for them, helping them to ‘open up’ and tell their story, and she is alert to any problems with legal representation that might impact upon trafficking cases.
With a ‘fiercely determined attitude’, and a work ethic that her Director calls ‘inspirational’, Patience has helped the women to gain justice and fair treatment from the authorities. She has displayed the qualities of being ‘extremely helpful, courteous and patient’ while doing so, and her compassion is summed up by the many testimonies from those she has helped, as well as her colleagues.
The gratitude of this prisoner was representative of many, when she said: ‘My time here has been so hard and distressing but Patience has worked hard and with so much sensitivity and moral support, she has helped me to leave my terrible past in the past. I had to relive my horrible ordeal over the past 13 years of being sex trafficked and abused and no one could imagine what that entailed, but Patience heard my cries of the enslaved and made visible, amazing things happen.’
The prison’s Roman Catholic Chaplain, Rev Fr Romanus, added: ‘From the testimonies of most of the prisoners I have referred to Patience, she proves to be an angel to them, the right person at the right place and the right time.’
For more information: contact HMP/YOI Bronzefield